At the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in February I went to a poetry workshop where two poet-professors from Davis, Brad Henderson and Andy Jones described their semi-annual ritual/challenge of doing 40 poems in 40 days. The idea is, regardless of quality of result, to write a poem a day every day for forty days as a way of kicking your poetic muse into gear. They do this a couple times a year, although typically only a handful of the resulting poems go on to be used elsewhere. They even provided a list of daily prompts to guide your efforts if you need direction.
This whole venture sounded like fun, and fit nicely with my own intention for the year to re-connect with my muse. I knew I would be busy in March and April with my film project, so I decided I’d give it a try starting in May. And here we are! Being a confessionalist in my writing, I’ve decided to share the process with you, my hapless victims. The first ten day’s worth are below, more to follow…
Warning: These are meant to be exercises, and some of the prompts that inspired them are intentionally nonsensical. Proceed at your own risk…
Hot Water(for Robert Frost, “Fire and Ice”)
Some said fire, some said icebut Frost (great seer)got it right on both counts:the lineamentsof our slaughterare even nowbeing tracedby the drip, drip, dripof hot water
A Truth Beyond All Truths(owing something to Wallace Stevens’ “Landscape with Boat”)
Anti-matter, florid, eccentric
Meets its opposite and wipes out all thingsLeaving behind the scintillating blue arrayOf particle trailsRushing out from a point that is no pointPrimeval blank vacuum field
In the Night before all nightsSomething erupted there, Or nothing,Whichever, kept expanding Into all the things that now are
The truth, even now,Is that these things are still the nothingThey once were,Even we are that nothingWhich is to say something
We, all, the empty spaceFrom which pours infinite creation
untitledI would lie theretwelve years oldon the sandbetween the dusty spread legsof two oak covered hillsyearning for somethingthat stirredlike the slit-eyed leopard sharksin the crusted saltbrackish tangand sinuous twist of the slough before me
Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie FluAll 200 patientsof the Denton Regional Medical Centerin Denton, Texas have custom headphonesbuilt into their bedsthat play every Aerosmith songever recordedon demand
Since most of the patients are olderclassics are popularIn Cardiology, Radiation Oncology and Geriatric Neurologyit’s strictly“Sweet Emotion”, “Dream On” and “Mama Kin”
Even down in Progressive Careand the Adolescent Unit they still have the good senseto pick it up with the Run-DMC remixof “Walk This Way” and cut it off circa 1994with “Cryin’”
Only in the Psych Wardin the basementdoes anybody have thebad taste, or derangementto listen to“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”
Nightmare of myself given childhood encouragement and high school confidenceHe feels nothing but satisfaction,a kind of ownership,as he slaps the behind of the lithe young blondelounging in satinon his way to the shower.More of the same in the streamlined gleamof his sports utility vehicle gliding down LA freeways.The feeling reaches a peakin the glass-walled officewhere all eyes at the trading deskbehold him with nervous regardwhile his viewsweeps the city that the electronic millions he commandscourses throughas he confidently ignorestheir expected reverence.
ellipsisOf all the…I have ever…the onethat endures is…Even now… risesat the memory of… …lying… on the…as we… the widthand breadth of…until…ran its courseand…took its weary toll
It’s Surprising to Me TooLegions of menstruating grandmothers for ObamaWill have their final battleWith the spider monkeys of doomOn the caldera of an Icelandic volcanoOn July 4, 1876For reasons that are yet obscureBut will one day be the subjectOf Applied Chronametrics term papersFlashed through cerebral upload academiesBy eight year olds
600 MontgomeryIt squats at the bottomlike a giant marble bullfrogThe functionless top scratches heavenwith its ornamental cement pylonsIn-betweenstack upon stackof white stone, black windowoptions narrow
Question to the Taiwanese birders I met at the Explorer’s Inn, Tambomachay, PeruDo grebes floatIn the Rio Tambobo?Venturers through a fluidic spacewhose muddy bottomis as bone-litteredas the Chauchilla Cemetery,do they brave caiman,giant river ottersand threats whose taxonomy I can’t even nameand then emergeto build nestsin green junglesabutting sandy riverbanks?
I began to seek the way out long beforeWe lived in Salinas, I was only six or seven. I was not allowed to go to the 7-11 by myself. I snuck there anyway with my next-door neighbor. On the way back we cut through an abandoned lot. We got away with it! Home, no evidence, parents never even knew—“What happened to your foot?” I looked down to find my right foot covered in blood. I must have cut it on broken glass in the lot. I didn’t feel it before, but as soon as I saw it, I screamed and cried. Pain? Yes. But almost as bad— Caught! Lying, guilt, doing what I wasn’t supposed to. My foot throbbed and pumped out crimson. The blood shooting up the dropper’s neck, in my system even then. It left behind a triangular scar that remains to this day.